The two day 2014 TSA conference held at the Celtic Manor proved to be a great success for their new Chief Executive Alyson Bell who masterminded the event.
That this was to be a conference like no other was very apparent from the start when a solo performance from Gracie of the Zimmers opened the conference, followed by a performance by the whole group. Plenary sessions by luminaries in the digital health and care world followed, interspersed by refreshment breaks and a breakout session. Sir Bruce Keogh was sadly unable to attend in person though gave a hugely inspiring talk to camera encouraging all to use technology to deliver better care, more efficiently. (In a show of hands however, responding to a question from the conference chair, Nick Goodwin, the audience did not agree that Sir Bruce’s “fertile permissive environment for technology” was in place).
The other standout of the first afternoon was Esther Rantzen’s story of establishing the Silver Line to help older people to cope, especially with loneliness. The video of how Silver Line helped Bob overcome his wife’s dementia and subsequent death was particularly moving.
On the second day, David Pearson, President of ADASS introduced this editor to the euphemism “non self-funders” (which reminded him of his days in BT when he incautiously objected to the term “non-managers” then in common use for the engineers and salespeople who sold and delivered the services that produced the revenue for BT). Bleddyn Rees, Head of Healthcare at Wragge’s and NED of ECHA pointed out that the there is much we can learn from the energy and shipping companies that of necessity had been practising remote patient management for a very long time.
Marc Lange Secretary general of EHTEL explained that the term ‘non-cashable savings’ meant that resource savings achieved by implementing an investment were immediately used up by an unmet need elsewhere. He also reworked Kevin Doughty’s epic chart, hopefully with permission, showing cost vs quality of life for everything from living at home to intensive care and demonstrating the obvious benefits, in terms of both cost and QoL, of helping people stay in their own homes.
Paul Shead gave two excellent examples of how his company’s UMO platform can simply, using a telephone, measure a person’s state of health autonomously, the first being to get a person to use the telephone key pad to time themselves over a distance, and the second to measure tremors in a person’s voice to establish the extent of Parkinson’s-induced tremors.
Many of the speakers, on both days suggested that the demand of remote monitoring technology was just about to surge, a comment that sadly this editor has heard at every such event since he started attending TSA conferences many years back. Certainly the evidence from the Supra time capsule opened on the first day was that little has changed in telecare practice in the past five years.
However there was one very positive sign of real coming change: an increasing number of companies with retail offerings, both new organisations and established organisations increasingly recognising the importance of making retail offerings. In no particular order these included Here and There, offering a very competitively priced retail alternative to the more institutionally-focused Just Checking, Cair’s range of really attractive pendants (with more stigma-free products on the way I’m told), protelhealth who can now provide telehealth or telecare, privately funded, anywhere in the UK using Orbis’s assisted living services, telmenow, offering “the widest range of technology-enabled health and care products and services available”, monitorGO a personal alarm service using ordinary smartphones, Amano technologies offering assistive technology for many situations, Pebbell personalised E-fobs aimed at children that parents want to keep track of and Navigil watches which combine mobile telephony with GPS tracking and an excellent battery life (disclosure: this editor assisted Navigil in the UK in previous years on the understanding that when the product was commercialised appropriate reward would be offered; to date none has been offered). To that in the past few days can also be added Dr Morton’s, a medical helpline, and doubtless many others – it seems that the much-anticipated arrival of retail products aimed drectly at the ned-user (or their carers) is arriving at last.
The location itself was interesting – the hotel is built on a hill, with the result that it was no simple matter to get from bedroom to exhibitor floor, even if you were lucky to catch one of the only three lifts in the hotel; what is conventionally the ground floor with Reception and breakfast etc, was actually halfway up the hotel, (which possibly generated more lift traffic for recent arrivals). Clearly though the hotel decided that TSA members must have special powers, as for example they only offered forks for the first day lunch involving tough-skinned sausages. Sadly the acoustics in the conference room did not help those such as this editor, whose hearing is not as it used to be, so much of what was said, especially in the first session when he was not sitting at the front, passed him by.
There were 37 exhibitors including both the main sponsors (Tunstall, Tynetec, Centra, Green Access, Elder Care, Verklizan, Appello) and other big names like Chubb, Bosch and Medvivo. This editor did not spot anyone from Safe Patient Systems or Docobo there, not did they have stands (mind you he missed Dr Who, too). More seriously, a few people commented on the absence of many commissioners, which was in spite of the TSA very cleverly offering free places for them. This is clearly an issue to work on for next year’s event.
Overall, it was a great two days, and very much a triumph for Alyson Bell, given the unexpected departure of the previous Chief Executive the week before.